Opinion: Stars Right to Sit Out Meaningless Bowl Games

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The New York Post


LSU's Leonard Fournette will end his collegiate career by skipping the Citrus Bowl. Stanford's Christian McCaffrey will sit out the Sun Bowl, also choosing to avoid potential injury with first-round NFL draft money awaiting in the spring.

Yes, this wouldn't have happened back in the day - or even at the start of this decade - but college football had this coming. The vast majority of bowls haven't mattered in years. When a postseason system includes 42 games, and invites 16 teams that didn't finish the regular season with a winning record, the games are just unnecessary exhibitions.

You wouldn't expect Tom Brady to play four quarters of a preseason game. You don't bat an eyelash when Gregg Popovich sits all of his Spurs stars on the second night of a back-to-back.

They are eliminating risk. They are making logical decisions to benefit their futures. The difference? The pros already have been paid.

Fournette and McCaffrey aren't another pair of narcissistic millennials, putting themselves above the team. They are kids who don't want to jeopardize their lifelong dreams, athletes who finally had the opportunity to secure the fortunes that they have helped so many others involved in the sport achieve.

While the standout running backs have been prohibited from making money off of their own name or likeness for the past three years, their universities could sell their jerseys, and TV networks could use them in advertisements. Fournette and McCaffrey had nothing to prove and nothing to gain after each came close to winning the Heisman Trophy as sophomores, but neither was eligible for the draft because of the NFL's nonsensical rule requiring players to be three years removed from high school.

Fournette, who has a young daughter, has played through an ankle injury and missed five games this season. McCaffrey touches the ball as much as any player in the country, and is the target of every tackler when he is running or receiving or returning.

Why would they risk becoming a more infamous version of Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who tore his ACL and LCL in the Fiesta Bowl last season and likely lost close to $20 million in guaranteed money by falling from a projected high first-round pick to the second round?

And why should players have to stick around for bowl games when coaches like Tom Herman (Houston to Texas) and Matt Rhule (Temple to Baylor) flee to new jobs every December?

This wouldn't have happened years ago because tens of millions of dollars weren't waiting years ago. If it weren't for the greed of the NCAA, creating and cramming in so many uninteresting bowls with so many unworthy teams, perhaps these games would mean more to the players. Do you remember last year's Hyundai Sun Bowl or Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl? Of course not, but you would have if one of the biggest stars in the country suffered a devastating injury.

Though this likely will begin a trend that will harden into tradition, the bowl system will survive. There is too much money to be made - and there is no reason for stars to end their careers by risking their long-awaited paydays.

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December 20, 2016


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